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Non-86 hardware

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x86 is a CPU architecture first developed in 1978 for the Intel 8086, an extention of the original Intel 8080. It was originaly a 16-bit architecture, but has been expanded multiple times, most notibly by AMD in 2005 who forked the architecture to create AMD64 (not to be confused with Intel's own IA-64, a different architecture).

When IBM first released the PC in 1981, they chose the Intel 8086 processor launched in 1978. This marks the origin of the modern personal computer as we know it today (aka IBM Compatible). The x86 architecture, as of 2022 is 44 years old and during its existence (particularly in the past decade) it has amassed significant controversy, and so computer enthusiasts are now turning to more "unconventional" hardware with somewhat "exotic" architectures.

Available hardware

ARM

Anecdote goes like this: Acorn was working on a 6 MHz chip. One day, somebody noticed the chip was running without its power supply connected (ACKCHYUALLY it was powered by leakage from the power rails leading to the I/O chip). Thus, ARM1 was born, and with it, a new generation of personal computers, embedded devices and handhelds.

The Fruit Pis

The world didn't end in 2012. Instead, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, in association with Broadcom, released the Raspberry Pi: an ARM-based single-board computer. Originally meant to feature a single-core 700MHz ARM11 and 128MB of SDRAM, it now ships with as much as 8 GB LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM and a quad-core 1.5 GHz BCM2711 ARMv8-A processor.

After the Pi's explosion in popularity, other manufacturers followed suit (naming their boards after fruits as well). The main competing boards are:

Raspberry Pi 4 B Banana Pi M5 Orange Pi 4
Raspberry Pi Foundation Shenzhen SINOVOIP Co., Ltd. Shenzhen Xunlong Software Co., Ltd.
Broadcom BCM2711, Quad core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.5GHz Amlogic S905X3 Quad-Core Cortex-A55 Processor Rockchip RK3399 (28nm HKMG process)

6-core ARM® 64-bit processor ,main frequency speeds up to 2.0GHz

2GB, 4GB or 8GB LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM 4GB LPDDR4 RAM Dual 4GB LPDDR4
Micro-SD card slot for loading operating system and data storage 16G eMMC flash onboard

MicroSD slot with support for up to 256GB expansion

EMMC Flash (Default Empty) or 16GB EMMC Flash

Pine64

Pine64 a Hong Kong-based organization that currently manufactures BusyBox/Linux compatible devices using Aarch64 and RISC-V SoC's. Their devices have been very well received, with some praising the absence of blobs on their single-board computers and others condemning the presence of such inside the LTE modem of the PinePhone.

Below is a table of some Pine64 ARM-powered devices:

PinePhone Pinebook Pro PineTab ROCKPro64 Quartz64 Model A SOPINE A64
Phone Laptop Tablet Single-board computer Single-board computer Computer-on-module
Quad-Core Allwinner A64 @ 1.152 GHz Hexa-Core Rockchip RK3399 Quad-Core Allwinner A64 @ 1.152 GHz Hexa-Core Rockchip RK3399 Quad-Core Rockchip RK3566 @ 2.0 GHz Quad-Core Allwinner A64 @ 1.152 GHz
Up to 3GB LPDDR3 RAM 4GB LPDDR4 RAM Up to 2GB LPDDR3 RAM Up to 4GB LPDDR4 RAM 4GB, 8GB LPDDR4 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM
Bootable microSD and 16GB/32GB eMMC Bootable microSD and 64GB eMMC

M.2 NVMe expansion option

Bootable microSD and 64GB eMMC Bootable microSD or optional eMMC module eMMC module socket (supporting up to 128GB) and microSD slot 128Mb SPI Flash

NVIDIA®©™ Jetson

First seen in Microsoft's misunderstood Zune HD, the NVIDIA Tegra SoC is present in a variety of hardware, from Nintendo's current best-selling console to NVIDIA's own computing boards. The three more popular (and affordable) offerings from NVIDIA are:

Jetson Nano 2GB Developer Kit Jetson Nano Developer Kit Jetson Xavier NX Developer Kit
Quad-core ARM® A57 @ 1.43 GHz Quad-core ARM A57 @ 1.43 GHz 6-core NVIDIA Carmel ARM®v8.2 64-bit CPU 6 MB L2 + 4 MB L3
2 GB 64-bit LPDDR4 25.6 GB/s 4 GB 64-bit LPDDR4 25.6 GB/s 8 GB 128-bit LPDDR4x @ 51.2GB/s
microSD (Card not included) microSD (not included) microSD (not included)

POWER/PowerPC

Once the pride and joy of the AIM Alliance, PowerPC hardware had been on decline since Apple decided to transition the Mac line of computers to the x86 architecture. Regardless, a few "renegades" decided to keep development of the platform alive, Which brigs us to:

Talos II

The Talos II is the first Power ISA workstation available to the general public since Apple discontinued the Power Mac G5 in mid-2006. It's built around the POWER9 processor from IBM. Available for pre-order since 2017, its price has gone up from $4,750.00 to $7,171.40 which makes it more of a luxury than a necessity (we're talking about the base model by the way!)

Below is a table of other offerings from Raptor Computing Systems:

Blackbird™ Mainboard (Board Only) Talos™ II Lite Mainboard (Board Only) Talos™ II Mainboard (Board Only) Blackbird™ Secure Desktop Talos™ II Entry-Level Developer System Talos™ II Desktop Development System
1 POWER9-compatible Sforza CPU socket

Supports up to an 8-core 160W TDP processor at full speed Higher core count CPUs are not officially supported

SMT4 capable

1 POWER9-compatible CPU socket

Supports up to a 22-core 160W TDP processor at full speed

SMT4 capable

2 POWER9-compatible CPU sockets

Supports up to TWO 22-core 160W TDP processors at full speed

SMT4 capable

1 POWER9-compatible Sforza CPU socket

Supports up to an 8-core 160W TDP processor at full speed

SMT4 capable

1 POWER9-compatible CPU socket

Supports up to a 22-core 160W TDP processor at full speed

SMT4 capable

2 POWER9-compatible CPU sockets

Supports up to TWO 22-core 160W TDP processors at full speed

SMT4 capable

2 DDR4 ECC registered RAM slots

Individual 128GB DDR4 DIMM support Supports up to 256GB total main system memory

8 DDR4 ECC registered RAM slots

Individual 128GB DDR4 DIMM support Supports up to 1TB total main system memory

16 DDR4 ECC registered RAM slots

Individual 128GB DDR4 DIMM support Supports up to 2TB total main system memory

2 DDR4 ECC registered RAM slots

Individual 128GB DDR4 DIMM support Supports up to 256GB total main system memory

8 DDR4 ECC registered RAM slots

Individual 128GB DDR4 DIMM support Supports up to 1TB total main system memory

16 DDR4 ECC registered RAM slots

Individual 128GB DDR4 DIMM support Supports up to 2TB total main system memory

Micro ATX form factor EATX form factor EATX form factor uATX mainboard in slimline chassis with 300W TFX power supply EATX chassis with 500W ATX power supply EATX chassis with 500W ATX power supply
1 PCIe 4.0 x16 slot

1 PCIe 4.0 x8 slot

1 PCIe 4.0 x16 slot

1 PCIe 4.0 x8 slot

3 PCIe 4.0 x16 slots

2 PCIe 4.0 x8 slots

1 PCIe 4.0 x16 slot

1 PCIe 4.0 x8 slot

1 PCIe 4.0 x16 slot

CAPI 2.0 capable

1 PCIe 4.0 x8 slot

3 PCIe 4.0 x16 slots (2 inactive with single CPU)

2 PCIe 4.0 x8 slots (1 inactive with single CPU)

NXP QorIQ AMP Series

A descendant of the mighty PowerPC G4 (MPC7400), the original QorIQ series is built around the e6500 core, which in turn is an evolution of the PowerPC e600 (developed after MPC7448, the last true G4). NXP has since switched to ARM cores for its Qoriq line. Regardless, development boards are still available, with the T2080 being sold for $1499.00 in 2021.

RISC-V

RISC-V is a free and open ISA enabling a new era of processor innovation through open standard collaboration. As the name suggests, it's based on established reduced instruction set computing (RISC) principles. First introduced in 2010, the architecture has developed quickly, with the first computers being available for sale almost a decade later.

The weakest and cheapest board being sold right now is the Nezha by RVBoards in collaboration with PerfXLab and Allwinner Technology, whereas the most powerful and expensive computer is the HiFive Unmatched sold by SiFive.

RVBoards-Nezha HiFive Unmatched
Quanzhi D1 C906 RISC-V 1GHz SiFive Freedom U740 SoC
DDR3 1GB (2*512MB outside),792MHz 16GB DDR4
On-board 256MB spi-nand, support USB external U disk and SD card to expand storage M.2 M-Key Slot (PCIe Gen 3 x4) for NVME 2280 SSD Module

Renesas SuperH

Renesas SH (formerly Chuck's Hitachi's) is a family of microcontrollers and microprocessors best known for powering several low-power computing devices during the Handheld PC era, as well as Sega's last home console: the Dreamcast. It has since waned from public consciousness. They are still found in some niche or legacy Japanese networking gear. As such, information on how to install custom operating systems can be found in Japanese blogs.

MS104-SH4 USL-5P
SH-4 "SH7750R" 240MHz 266 MHz SH4
SDRAM 32MByte 64 MB ram
FlashROM 16MByte CompactFlash